In a game that pitted the number one scoring offense in the AAC against the number one scoring defense, it was the offense of Houston that dominated on Friday afternoon, racking up 548 yards of total offense and scoring as it pleased in a 52-31 defeat of Navy.
The tale of the tape for this one could be found in Navy's inability to get off the field on third and fourth down. Houston converted a remarkable 16 of 19 third downs and was 2 of 2 on fourth down as well, the most third down conversions by any FBS team this season.
Greg Ward Jr. was a true dual-threat, passing for 308 yards and 3 touchdowns and rushing for 83 yards and another score. His acrobatic 360 degree spin and touchdown in the second quarter left Navy defenders looking silly, but even he was outdone by two circus catches made by Demarcus Ayers who could do no wrong in hauling in 8 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown and passing for another.
With Navy unable to get off the field all day long, Keenan Reynolds did everything he could to keep the Midshipmen in this game, setting a career high with 312 yards passing and a touchdown, and adding another 84 yards on the ground and a score. His rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter was the 83rd of his career and tied him with Montee Ball for the most touchdowns scored in FBS history as well as the most points scored in FBS history for a non-kicker. He also tied the Navy record for passing touchdowns in a career with his 29th touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman in the first half.
Houston got the scoring going on their first drive of the game, using a Will Anthony offsides penalty and three Demarcus Ayers receptions to set up a five yard corner fade to Steven Dunbar that made it 7-0.
Navy would answer back using a 52 yard scamper from Reynolds on the first play from scrimmage for the Navy offense to set up the first of two Chris Swain touchdowns on the day.
Houston would counter, converting two third downs and a fourth down that included the first of Ayers circus catches on a near interception to make it 14-0 on a Brandon Wilson 17 yard touchdown run. Wilson would end up with 111 yards rushing and two touchdowns in his first start after converting from defensive back due to a series of injuries to Houston running backs.
After swapping punts, Navy tied it up at 14 a piece as Houston stacked the box with ten defenders and Jamir Tillman was left wide open for the touchdown pass.
Houston would add another touchdown on the aforementioned Greg Ward SC Top 10 scramble to make it 21-14. They would get a field goal to end the first half giving them a ten point lead at halftime.
Navy would get the ball back needing to come out firing in the second half, but a deflected Keenan Reynolds pass resulted in a quick interception, and Ward Jr. wasted little time making him pay and putting Houston up 31-14. Navy would add a field goal to cut the lead to two scores, but Houston would answer right back on an incredible one handed catch and score by Ayers to make it a three touchdown game at 38-17.
Keenan Reynolds, one of the most prolific rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history would be forced to take to the air, and he would do everything he could in the process to try and keep Navy in the game. He made a nice conversion on 4th and 8 to set up a second Chris Swain touchdown, but Houston would not be denied as they responded right back with some trickeration as Ayers got his name into the box score with a passing touchdown to put Houston back up 45-24.
Reynolds would respond once more, driving Navy down the field and finding his way into the endzone for the 83rd time in his career. That touchdown gave him an even 500 points scored for his career, tied for the most all-time for a non-kicker with Montee Ball.
Houston would add one more touchdown on their next drive to put the game firmly out of reach as Brandon Wilson scored from two yards out to make the final 52-31.
With the victory, Houston will host either Temple or USF next weekend at noon on either ABC or ESPN. Navy will get a week off before finishing their regular season December 12th against Army in Philadelphia. Navy still has a chance to finish the regular season with ten wins, bring home the Commander-in-Chief's trophy, and grab its first eleven win season in school history in the Military Bowl.